The most important person in my life is my belayer. My life is literally in their hands. It is also literally scary to get a new belayer. NEVER worry about offending the person. Instead ask what you need to feel comfortable. If your belayer is offended or refuses to answer, you need a new partner. What should we talk about before getting on the wall?
- Always make a point to see if they are ready before hopping on the wall. Formally the conversation goes like this:
Climber: On belay?
Belayer: Belay on!
Climber: Ready to climb?
Belayer: Climb on!
Climber: Climbing (As in, “Okay, here I am climbing now”)
***HUGE THING for multi-pitch if you cannot see each other. As the belayer say absolutely SILENT unless you are on belay. At a distance NOT READY sounds a lot like BELAY ON. DON’T CLIMB sounds like GO CLIMB. If not ready, stay silent.
Otherwise do whatever it takes to feel confident. Here are somethings I might do:
Top Rope Belay:
Top rope belaying is super simple. I just check if they are comfortable. If they are newish to climbing I give them an out by asking, “Do you feel good, would you like a refresher?” They love it! It is hard to ask for help, but if they need a refresher it creates an easy in for them to just double check that the still got it.
My fear of falling is strong. I ask a lot of questions. This are the things I want to know:
- Have you lead belayed before?
- (if using an ATC) Do you know how to use a Grigri? Do you want to use my Grigi?
- How much do you weigh? Potential follow up: Do you know how to do a soft catch?
- If nervous about offending try this version, “I weigh XXX, if you weigh more than me I would love a soft catch. Do you know how to do a soft catch?”
- Do you know how to do a hard catch?
- Can you keep it pretty tight until the 3rd bolt?
- On this multi-pitch if you cannot hear me yell on belay, I will give three hard pulls on the rope. Can you give three hard pulls back to let me know when you are climbing?
I also will give them some facts.
- Hey, if I yell “Watch me” that means I think I may fall. No need to belay differently, just be prepared for a catch.
- I’m trying this new thing where I clip in to the bolts and let go before the slack is taken out. It is just a training to combat my fear of falling. Just make sure to belay normally when I get to the top.
- When I get past the 2nd bolt, I will need some a soft catch to get under that overhang (etc.).
Want to earn some bonus points as a belayer?
There I was getting ready to climb. I am nervous about falling so there I was putting off starting. This climb was right at my level. The last time I climbed it I took a full fall. I was too tired to clip in to the bolt and fell a full distance. Was I fine? Yes. Did I realize at the time falling was no big deal? Yes. Did that help me my next trip there? No. Anyways, I turn to my belayer and I tell her, “Hey this is right at my level. Right above the 3rd bolt be ready to catch me”. She looked at me like I was crazy. And said, “I am always read to catch.”
That’s the truth. As a belayer the job is to always be able to catch your climber. You would be surprised at how just a few words can really help the climber climb hard. It makes a difference of a bad day to a good day! Somewhere out there in this big world is the belayer of your dreams. 😉
What questions do you ask your partner? Have you ever rejected someone’s offer to belay? What lead you to turn them down? Let me know in the comments! 🙂